Rescued Addo lionesses have cubs

Nicka's two cubs
Nicka's two cubs
Image: Kuzuko Lodge

They were orphaned and almost died‚ then rescued and taught to hunt by following a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Now two lioness sisters have completed the circle of life by giving birth to cubs‚ all four of which are being raised in the same pride.

“The process of bringing these cubs up has been the highlight of my conservation career‚” Gerhard de Lange‚ reserve general manager at Kuzuko Lodge in the Eastern Cape, said.

Kuzuko announced on Friday that the second of the two lionesses‚ named Nicka‚ had given birth to two cubs eight weeks ago.

Her sister Angel’s cubs were born 14 weeks ago after being fathered by Sylvester‚ the lion given a home at Kuzuko after twice escaping from the Karoo National Park.

De Lange said Nicka and Angel had been born in nearby Addo Elephant National Park in the winter of 2014‚ but their mother died that December from a suspected snake bite and the cubs disappeared.

Weeks later‚ a field guide found the starving and emaciated cubs and took them to a boma to recover.

“Their future was uncertain as it is against the conservation principles of SA’s leading conservation authorities to raise wild animals in captivity‚” said De Lange‚ who agreed to find a way to raise them without any human contact.

He used his vehicle to get close to the cubs without directly engaging with them‚ and they soon began treating the Land Cruiser as a member of their pride and started hunting with it.

The reserve manager began by encouraging them to chase mice‚ rats‚ monkeys and guinea fowl‚ and when they were 18 months old the lionesses killed their first kudu bull.

Once the cubs were independent they were introduced to Sylvester‚ who was given a home in the 15‚000ha Kuzuko reserve in May 2016‚ and shortly afterwards another young male‚ Fielies‚ was introduced to the pride.

He fathered Nicka’s cubs.

“This is an example of a rare conservation success story and one we need to hear more of if we are to ensure the future of Africa’s wild lions,” De Lange said on Friday.